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Bahrain accepts that 2011 race is off
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Bahrain accepts that 2011 race is off
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jun 2011   |  10:35 am GMT  |  23 comments

Last night the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix issued a statement accepting that it will not be possible to stage the race this year and focussing their efforts on getting ready to host the sport in March 2012.

Bahrain has nine months before its next race Photo: Darren Heath


In many ways this is what the organisers and the government there should have sought to do from the outset, rather than push for an Autumn date this season.

With so much going on there, and with uncertainty in the outside world about the extent of the troubles, it was always going to be problematic to try to hold the race this year. It was surprising that the Bahrainis got as far as a positive vote in the FIA World Motor Sport Council last week.

But having achieved that, the teams put their foot down and made it clear to them, the commercial rights holder and the FIA that they would not accept the disruption and extension of the schedule into December to accommodate the change.

Now Bahrain has nine months – twice the length of time that has elapsed since the initial uprising in the country – to pursue discussions with the opposition groups and find a way forward which will create a stable enough society for “normal” activities, such as F1, to return.

The Chairman of Bahrain International Circuit, Zayed Alzayani, said,

“Whilst Bahrain would have been delighted to see the Grand Prix progress on October 30th in-line with the World Motor Sport Council’s decision, it has been made clear that this fixture cannot progress and we fully respect that decision.

“Bahrain has absolutely no desire to see a race which would further extends the calendar season detract from the enjoyment of F1 for either drivers, teams or supporters. We want our role in Formula One to continue to be as positive and constructive as it has always been, therefore, in the best interest of the sport, we will not pursue the rescheduling of a race this season.

“We look forward to welcoming teams, their drivers and supporters back to Bahrain next year.”

Speaking at the FOTA Fans Forum in Montreal last night, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh -whose team is 40% owned by the Bahrainis – said,

“We’ve been going to Bahrain for many years and they’ve done a great job, ” he said. “But we have to recognise that we are a sport, not a political organisation. FOTA made its position clear in a private letter. But what we have to be careful of is, is it for us to decide on human rights, whether we should be going to China or Russia?

We have to be very careful if we then start be this moral arbiter, of what country has the right level of human rights and we’ll only go there. It was difficult for Jean Todt and the FIA, he went into a process, there was a unanimous decision, Jean is trying to run the sport in an orderly manner.”

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23 Comments
  1. Goku says:

    Im glad the right decision was reached…eventually. I don’t think we will ever see another Bahrain GP unless a compromise can be reached between the parties, which in itself seems unlikely at the moment.

    1. wayne says:

      So F1 cars, quasi symbols of capitalist freedoms and prosperity, will now not thunder around what is tantamount to a prince’s private race track – a track that the people of Bahrain neither asked for or particularly wanted yet were forced to pay for. While protestors linger in custody and are denied full and fair trials, Scarlet Ferraris and Silver Mercedes will now not, ironically, fill the desert air with the smell of burning oil in the form of petrol. Presumably, the F1 illuminate was hoping that the sound of roaring V10s would have, for one day, drown out the sound of cries of oppression? Sadly, this is not only possible but is likely – the sound of screaming engines and the rustle of billions of dollars changing hands make a pretty loud noise.

      30 people lost their lives in the protests that led to the race being delayed. Let me say that again – 30 human beings are dead. Yet, apparently, enough people sat in a WMSC council meeting and raised their hands in a vote which ultimately placed greed above basic human decency and propriety. I can’t help but feel that this is a new low for F1 – even if the race does not ultimately go ahead, F1 has lost an opportunity to flex its little used but often talked about social responsibility muscle. Our sport can introduce ridiculous concepts like KERS for the sake of social responsibility in the form of environmental considerations but does not have the self control to abstain when people are fighting for their lives and freedoms? Despite this decision, if the race does not make it back on the calendar in 2011 it will be because F1 needed to be shamed into making the right decision rather than having the moral and social maturity to do so of its own accord. F1 had an opportunity to show that it is not all about gross, glutinous consumption – yet it chose not to take it. Shame.

      Interestingly, at the same WMSC meeting a 21 race schedule was announced for next year – this despite the teams only signing up for 20 races and no more. Crazy? No. This is Bernie saying to Turkey stump up the obscene amount of money we are asking for or you place is forfeit – there are plenty more dictatorships around the world who will pay 100 million to coat their regimes in F1 gloss.

      I note that F1 has been congratulating itself for being on course to secure revenues of around 100 million per race for the first time from 2016. Well, as a long standing F1 fan (and I will continue to tune in to my growing shame), I must say well done! The only question remains who will be paying CVC that 100 million, an eclectic but desperate selection of the world’s most oppressed citizens? The north Korean GP anyone? Why not? Kim-Jong-Il can surely afford it – we could race at the 38th parallel under the spotlights already mounted in the machine gun nests. The race could take the slot currently allocated to the return of the USA GP that is running into financial difficulties due to the disadvantage of its democratically elected government having to justify spending tax dollars to a people who are allowed to choose, by exercising their democratic prerogative, between hospitals and schools and multi million dollar racetracks.

      Anyone else see the pattern here? More and more European and north American democracies drop off (or are in danger of dropping off) the calendar to be replaced by questionable regimes which are more ‘efficient’ at silencing their people should they protest at the obscene amount of money being spent. The trend is clear and hints at something dark and breathtakingly hypocritical at the heart of the sport.

  2. John says:

    Does this mean the Indian gran prix has moved back to it’s previous date?

  3. K-F1 says:

    “In many ways this is what the organisers and the government there should have sought to do from the outset, rather than push for an Autumn date this season.”

    SO – VERY – TRUE!!!!!!!!!!

    Only Bernie wanted to wait due to money! If he hadn’t allowed them to wait, this would’ve never been a problem this year.

  4. Super Fan says:

    Can’t believe they mentioned Russia and China by name.

  5. Johnny Talia says:

    Todt’s lack of coherent leadership in this matter has been disgraceful. Bahrain had internal political troubles that caused them to miss their agreed-upon event date, and that’s where it should have ended. So sorry, best of luck, see you next year.

    The whole F1 schedule is too complex and expensive to start jerking it around in mid-season because one participant is not ready. The fact that the event was very early in the season, and that the organizers have gazillions in cash should have nothing to do with it.

  6. Sebee says:

    I bet they also realized that this year it won’t be a down to the wire championship battle. Not a vintage year,
    If you will. Little point to stretch this season out with complicated last minute calendar shuffling just to see more Alonso suffering.

  7. David says:

    The only decision. Was only a matter of time before someone mentioned China. I think there’s a big difference though, as the same people who organise the GP and will be photographed with all the big names, are the same people who head up a questionable regime which is allowing attacks on it’s people.

    If F1 does not want to be used in Political decisions, it’s hard ot see how there will be a race there in 2012.

  8. Matt says:

    I love how the majority of F1 fans could care less if Bahrain was off the calendar for good – let alone under the circumstances yet their opinion has not been mentioned as a driving reason at all.

    I guess it’s a bit like being a man on the street in Bahrain – you’ll accept what you’re given.

  9. Michael Grievson says:

    tbh I’m tired of this whole human rights debate. I’m not wanting to sound cruel or heartless but if we all really cared about human rights we’d bin every bit of technology and clothes etc that were all made in china. We wouldn’t buy coffee or tea from 3rd world countries etc.

    Out of sight out mind

  10. Matt says:

    “But what we have to be careful of is, is it for us to decide on human rights, whether we should be going to China or Russia?”

    You’re either against something or you’re sponsoring it – you can’t enjoy the spoils while sitting on the fence pal.

    It’s that sort of PC garbage that allows human rights abuses to flourish.

  11. TM says:

    Hi James

    Any feeling on how insiders think Todt has handled this situation?
    In my opinion he’s been completely incompetent.

    Cheers

    1. Maciej R. says:

      Incompetent?

      I’m not his biggest fan, but am I the only one who thinks that this has been the plan all along? While people might have a bitter taste in their mouths about the WMSC decision, in the end it was Bahrain who officially cancelled the event, not the FIA or Bernie – which probably means that ‘legally’ they are squeaky clean, and also (probably) don’t have to pay back all/some of the money they would have had to pay if they themselves decided not to go.

      We have a saying where I come from, “if you don’t know what it’s about – it’s probably about money”.

      My 2 cents worth anyway…

      1. Harvey Yates says:

        Marcie,

        I too had my doubts about Todt but I have to admit that up until the Bahrain decision I was being won over. I can’t find the man likeable but he’s certainly a massive improvement.

        He’s in a very awkward position at the moment. He’s got authority but little power. He, or rather the FIA, has much to lose in the concord battle and he needs to form liaisons rather than rock the boat.

        I too think that from his point of view the result isn’t too bad.

        I see you come from where I do. Follow the money is just about universal.

        Given that Bahrain has its fingers in many F1 pies, and they won’t want to pay all that money without a little influence, then I’d suggest that their cancellation in this case is the important outcome.

        We don’t go to Bahrain and the FIA doesn’t foot the bill for cancellation.

        I don’t know enough about the situation to say if this was a clever move by Todt, a bit of crisis management to salvage flotsum, jetsum and lagan (let’s not use the word derelict, perhps a bit early to use that when the FIA is metnioned) or a total disaster. Time will tell I suppose.

        Unless James does in the meantime?

      2. TM says:

        No, I don’t think this was his plan all along, and I do think he has come across as incompetent for the following reasons:

        1) He didn’t know that he needed full backing from the teams to change the calendar at such a late stage.

        2) Sure, the fact that officially it was Bahrain who cancelled probably means there is no penalty to the FIA, however the damage this saga has done to F1 will surely be very costly.

        3) He kept on quoting that hopeless report done by the FIA rep. He had no other references to back up his stance, he just kept quoting it as if it was written by God. A high school child is taught to use various sources of information and to judge those sources for likely reliability (i.e. in this case the FIA rep was being shown round by who official Bahrain reps… vested interests anyone?).

        4) Since FOTA pointed out that the calendar could not be changed without their unanimous agreement, Todt and the FIA have been majoring on the defensive; how often do we get to see letters from and to the FIA? Todt has made sure that his letter to FOTA was published, to try to persuade everyone that he wasn’t incompetent, he knew all along that he needed FOTA agreement but assumed he had it because Ferrari are on the WMSC, and members of FOTA. More defensiveness comes in the form of the FIA releasing the chronology of events:
        http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/92157
        This has all the hallmarks of somebody desperately trying to persuade that they knew all along what they were doing, but clearly didn’t.

        5) If you’re going to bluff your way so cleverly through something as you’re suggesting, you don’t do it in a way that makes people think you’re completely incompetent (and frankly without morals), even if it does mean you save a few quid in the end. It’s not just me that thinks he handled it poorly:
        http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/motor-racing/richard-rae-arrogant-ignorant-and-incompetent-todt-should-resign-2294777.html

  12. Richard says:

    Glad to hear that the race will not happen this year. It is clear that the country has not yet reached a level of stability to support the hosting of an international sporting event.

    I’d be quite happy to never see Bahrain on the F1 calendar again. It tends to produce the most boring races and who really wants F1 in the desert? There is no worthwhile local fan base; the only thing that drives it is money. Although Bernie is already one of the richest men in the world he seems to always want more.

  13. Grabyrdy says:

    I suspect Bernie has played a trick on Todt here – perhaps letting him believe that the teams would be sweet when it was not the case. A skirmish in a long war, no doubt.

    Regarding more important things, for all of us who resisted the reinstatement of this race, our job now is to follow the story and see how the situation has evolved by next March. Peace by repression, rubber-stamped by the presence of F1, was not acceptable this year, and it will not be acceptable next year either.

  14. jonrob says:

    Was Todt actually involved in this at all? He has made the least possible effort and said next to nothing. I never thought I would say this in a million years, but can we have Max back please!

    It is notable how completely spineless the FIA, Todt, Bernie and the teams have been, no one has mentioned the atrocities in Bahrain as the reason for not going, the whole unsavoury issue has been converted into a sanitised one of dates.

    Mark Webber is the only driver there that has my respect for actually stepping up and saying what most right minded people think.

    Apart form Mark, shame on the lot of you!

    1. Neil White says:

      I agree about your comment on Mark Webber.

      I wonder how many drivers will come out against it now? Easy after the event.

      Mark Webber has gone up yet further in estimation of him as a human being.

      Neil.

  15. Steven says:

    FOTA and GPDA moving their weight!

  16. Dale says:

    What a farse the rulers of F1 are.

  17. CJ the 2cnd, probably... says:

    Well I think Martin Whitmarsh has it about right. F1 is not, and should not become, a human rights campaigning organisation, its not what its for and those who would hi-jack it for their cause(s) should be resisted. It is perfectly legitimate to refuse to race at venues where the personal safety of personel cannot be guaranteed, or the track/facilities arn’t up to scratch. These are sensible business/racing criteria, and that is why the decision not to race at Bahrain was, and remains, correct. Evaluating the host government before agreeing to race opens up a whole can of worms as has been illustrated by a number of posts on this issue. In particular who arbitrates? I am inclined to doubt that anyone in F1 is about to write a thesis on human rights abuses worldwide, Its simply not what F1 is good at. And thats my point really, F1 should concentrate on what its good at, racing.

  18. Rafael says:

    This is the right call. But dare I say it, I actually feel sorry for the organizers of the Bahrain GP, they didn’t deserve this sort of treatment from F1. It’s bad enough that their country has to deal with the internal strife it’s going through right now, but to be duped into believing the race will push through for 2011 but eventually not is rather insulting. Such shenanigans were unnecessary to begin with: I think the FIA and FOM (Bernie Ecclestone) should have stuck with their earlier decision to postpone the race for this year and just wait until 2012.

    Actually it’s not just the Bahrain GP organizers I feel bad for, but also for those of the Indian GP and the teams; parties who were caught in the middle of a cross-fire between Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone, two BOYS trying to one up each other. They’ve somewhat put F1 in a bad light with their indecision, political antics and finger pointing.

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